New Hampshire Refuses to Hand Over Prescription Records of Patients to DEA

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is requesting records from a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) that tracks which pharmaceutical drugs have the most potential for abuse, but the state of New Hampshire is refusing to comply with these demands unless there is a warrant showing probable cause.

The DEA believes that whatever privacy rights the patients have do not matter, and that federal law should reign supreme over state law. The ‘Live Free or Die’ state is fighting back in court with help from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against this invasive federal overreach.

Michelle Ricco-Jonas, the program manager for the New Hampshire Board of Pharmacy, is tasked with overseeing the state’s PDMP database. She is challenging a DEA subpoena for two years worth of records from the database.

The subpoena was served last June and has been challenged in the courts ever since. A federal judge ruled in favor of the DEA in January, which prompted the state of New Hampshire to appeal the decision in the 1st District Court.

“Drugs listed as controlled substances and tracked by the PDMP include a number of frequently prescribed medications used to treat a wide range of serious medical conditions,” the ACLU writes.

“A patient’s prescription history can reveal her physician’s confidential medical advice, her chosen course of treatment, her diagnosis, and even the stage or severity of her disorder or disease,” the ACLU continues.

The ACLU is using the precedent of Carpenter v. United States (2018) to make their case. The High Court ruled in the decision that cellphone location data was not subject to “third party doctrine,” which states that information is not protected under the 4th Amendment that is voluntarily submitted. The ACLU believes this same standard should apply to an individual’s choice of medicine as well.

The New Hampshire Medical Society is standing with the ACLU against this federal overreach.

“Protecting patients’ medical information is essential to ensuring that patients feel comfortable to seek medical care,” says James Potter, who works as executive vice president for the New Hampshire Medical Society.

“Patients who trust their health systems to protect their data receive better outcomes. Maintaining patient privacy is also essential to protecting our patients’ dignity. We are proud to join the New Hampshire Department of Justice’s commendable efforts to ensure that Granite Staters will not be inhibited when they seek medical care,” he added.